It is in a farmhouse living room near here that Democrats
Township will gather Monday night.
will plug in the 30-cup coffeepot.
She'll take out her special buttermilk sugar cookies with raisins pushed
in the middle and put them on the table by the bay window.
Then Tubaugh and her neighbors will sit down and decide who they want to
represent them as the Democratic nominee for president.
This is the kind of quaint scene that makes up Iowa caucus lore. It's also
The Democrat and Republican parties gradually have moved away from having
precinct caucuses in private residences. Since the mid-1980s, Iowa law has dictated that caucus meetings be held in
public buildings whenever possible. That's why most caucuses Monday night will
be in schools, fire stations, courthouses and community buildings. According to Iowa Democratic Party spokeswoman Shannon Tesdahl, only 6 percent
of the more than 2,100 Democratic caucuses this year will be in homes. Public sites are usually handicapped-accessible and easy to find and have plenty
of parking, she said.
Officials also worry that a caucus host might attempt to influence the outcome.
Years ago, according to caucus historian Hugh Winebrenner, someone started a
fire as a distraction, then quickly elected a slate of delegates while volunteer
firemen and other residents doused the flames. Tubaugh would never dream of pulling such a stunt. She is a 77-year-old widow and great-grandmother, and she's just looking forward
to an informal gathering with her neighbors.
"You get to see all the people you haven't talked to for a while," she
said. "It's a rural area, and sometimes I have two or three. Sometimes I
have 12 or 13. It just depends on the weather and what people are doing." Quaint? Sure.
But this informal setting also seems to fit rural Iowa: Poweshiek County
Democrats sitting in Tubaugh's rocking chair or on one of her cushy couches,
deciding who they want for the next president of the United States.
No fuzzy boom microphones. No candidates dropping in for a photo op. No crowds.
Just Tubaugh in her 108-year-old house, telling her neighbors why she supports
Vice President Al Gore. Her idea of strong-arming is a Gore portrait clipped to
Tubaugh has held a caucus for at least 30 years, except when she worked for the
federal government's conservation office.
The meetings usually don't last much longer than an hour. Attendees make pitches
for their candidates, then select delegates. Sometimes they introduce
resolutions they want on the party platform. Tubaugh doesn't remember any heated arguments. She does remember a big crowd one
year when supporters of the candidates had to divide themselves into the living
room, dining room, bedroom and pantry.
This year, she knows a retired schoolteacher who will come. There are also a
retired bank clerk, a retired farmer and a union man she expects to show up.
A high school student or two, encouraged to attend by their government teacher,
might show up and lower the average
Republicans from the township this year will drive into Montezuma to meet at the
Poweshiek County Courthouse.
The Democrats could meet there or in the church in this no-longer-on-the-map
town. They could meet in the tiny metal community building, but it doesn't have
"It's cold, and you have to heat it up," Tubaugh said. "It's just
easier to do it here."